Where have all the ayam percik sellers gone?

Rendang, especially rendang tok, is a must for Christmas and Easter in our household, but if there is one Malay dish I crave, and have yet to make, it is ayam percik.

Ayam percik is grilled, or roasted chicken, marinated in fragrant ingredients, such as tamarind, coconut milk, lemongrass, turmeric, cumin, and coriander.

As the chicken – held between two bamboo skewers – is slowly cooked over charcoal, the marinade is splashed or splattered (hence, percik) on the meat, caramelising it and giving it an incredible coating of flavour. (See a recipe below).

It tastes a little like rendang, but in its unique way – as the famous saying goes, “same, same, but different”.

Growing up in the food haven that is Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, I used to have ayam percik two to three times a month.

As I grew older, I looked forward to the pasar Ramadan (Ramadan bazaars), as nearly every one would have at least one trader selling it.

But in recent times, especially after Covid-19, ayam percik at Ramadan bazaars is more elusive than an honest politician.

Twentytwo13’s creative editor, Hanafiah Nordin, also noticed the trend.

“I have been hunting for authentic ayam percik for several years but have not found it at the pasar Ramadan,” he said. “Now, everyone seems to be selling Roti John. I am not a fan of that.”

He added he saw a trader selling ayam percik once, but the meat was slathered in red sauce, not the coconuty one.

“If I am not mistaken, that is how the Indonesians make it,” added Hanafiah.

We discussed this delicacy after I revealed that I had found this Kelantanese dish at a Ramadan bazaar in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan.

I was in Nilai to interview Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) director-general, Dr Ramle Kasin. A quick Google search showed two Ramadan bazaars near the MCB office.

More in hope than anticipation, I drove to the closest one and was met by a smorgasbord of food.

A few steps from one of the entrances was a sight to behold – a stall with a big banner proclaiming: ‘Ayam Percik Kota Bharu’.

I felt like falling to the ground and kissing the tarmac but did not, in case the chicken was not up to expectations.

The aroma that greeted me made my mouth water, and out of respect for those fasting, I had to control myself from ordering and eating it right there and then.

After buying several other dishes for dinner, I headed home, but there was a massive traffic jam. The smell of the ayam percik made it hard to concentrate on the road.

Talk about torture!

After reaching home and running some errands, the home minister and I finally set down to have our meal.

Nasi banjir ayam percik
The ayam percik trader was generous with the kuah.

Our verdict: the ayam percik could have been juicier, but other than that, it was tasty and brought back memories of the ones I used to have, growing up.

The trader was generous with the sauce, and we had ‘nasi banjir’ ayam percik. It was so good that we might drive to Nilai tomorrow to get more of it.

I might even kiss the road this time!

TIME TO MASK UP, AGAIN

Not to scare anyone, but the number of Covid-19 cases is frighteningly high once again as people become lax after living with the coronavirus for the past three years.

As you prepare for Hari Raya and the long holiday, please take precautions, even if it means wearing masks again. Prevention is better than cure.

The World Health Organisation also revealed that the number of coronavirus infections increased by nearly 481 per cent in Southeast Asia and 144 per cent in the eastern Mediterranean region in a month, but the global incidence and Covid-19-related fatalities were declining.

BB_LIME ART EXHIBITION

Branden Lim is a 12-year-old who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It has left him severely paralysed.

Nonetheless, Lim is a talented self-taught artist who will hold his first exhibition later this month.

AYAM PERCIK

If you love ayam percik, here is a recipe I found online. We will attempt it during the Hari Raya holidays.

REMEMBERING JOHN PRINE

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the release of John Prine’s final studio album – ‘Tree of Forgiveness’.

Last Friday was also the third anniversary of Prine’s death from complications related to Covid-19.

Prine touched many people’s lives, as this article explains so brilliantly.

To honour the great man, listen to a mini-concert he recorded after the release of his last album.

Until next week, stay safe.

https://youtu.be/sOg7mAkrKJw